Frontline fighter at Oklahoma City grocery store dipped into her own pocket to help people in need

Pay It 4ward
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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – We first met Ilesh Patel and Dr. Riaz Surajuddin early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. Their nonprofit food pantry Charity From the Heart serves needy families around Oklahoma.

“Last week we had $3,500 groceries in one week. That’s how much the people come together, and I just think that’s fantastic,” Dr. Surajuddin said.

The founders do this work for free – zero administrative cost means this doctor/engineer duo do the shopping themselves.

“So that way, if you gave me $10, that $10 is going to go to the recipients without any questions,” Dr. Surajuddin said.

“He gave me limit $400. So, I was at the register and it rang all the food items $430,” Ilesh said.

Ilesh was stocking up at the Crest Market in South Oklahoma City earlier this year.

As he was checking out in Miss Mary’s lane, he realized he had more groceries than cash.

“So, I told Miss Mary, ‘I’m $40 over. I need to put $40 worth of stuff back.’ It came to 13 or 14 boxes of hamburger helper, some spaghetti,” Ilesh said. “So, she asked me question, ‘What are you purchasing this grocery for?’ I said, ‘We are donating it for food pantry, for the needy people.’ All of the sudden, out of the blue, she pulled out her credit card from her pocket and said, ‘Don’t worry,’ she says ‘I’m going to pay for you.’”

The gift rendered Ilesh speechless.

I was frozen at the time,” Ilesh said.

And if you know Ilesh, you know that is rare.

You see, Ilesh Patel is no stranger to the limelight. Galen Culver featured his backyard pepper plants in 2016.

Let’s just say, Ilesh can take the heat in the kitchen.

This day, he’s cooking up something special – a pandemic Pay it Forward surprise.

“First Fidelity is so glad to help you pay it forward and continue recognizing her that she might go ahead and recognize others,” said Tammy Brakebill with First Fidelity Bank. “We’re going to give you this $400 and we would like you to pay it forward to Miss Mary so that she can benefit from that. Thank you very much.”

Ilesh has a feeling that Miss Mary will remember him.

KFOR’s Ali Meyer accompanied the kind gentlemen from Charity From the Heart as they traveled to the Crest store Miss Mary works at to pay it forward to her. They were masked up and the cash was in hand.

“We think Miss Mary is on [register] #6. Oh, her light is on, her light’s on,” Ali said.

The group found Miss Mary.

“So, we are here as part of a program called Pay it 4ward. Have you heard of Pay it 4ward?” Ali asked. Miss Mary nodded.

“Okay. So, when I was here purchasing groceries for the food pantry, you donated $40 worth of groceries that I was over,” Ilesh said. “And I really appreciate your kindness, and for me, you are one of the angels that came from nowhere on that day. You did it for the good causes. It touched my heart.

“Oh my God,” Miss Mary said.

“And this is the first time in three months these people are doing this story, and let me give you a hug, ma’am,” Ilesh said.

“Oh…big hug. God bless you,” Miss Mary said as she and Ilesh hugged.

Both Ilesh and Miss Mary were both overcome with emotion.

“So, here is the $400. 1-2-3-4, Mary,” Ilesh said as he presented the $400 to Miss Mary.

“Thank you very much. Thank you,” Miss Mary said.

But Miss Mary was so humble and so gracious that she attempted to give the $400 to Dr. Surajuddin.

“Please take it,” Miss Mary said.

“No, ma’am. No, Miss Mary, that’s all yours. Mary…please, please. It’s all for you,” Dr. Surajuddin said.

“God bless you, thank you,” Miss Mary said.

“You deserve every single penny,” Dr. Surajuddin said.

One good turn deserves another, and this good deed was too good to pass up.

The crowd at the store cheered Miss Mary. It was rockstar treatment at the headquarters for rock bottom prices.

“It’s a blessing to be able to [give], and I was blessed that week. Thank you very much,” Miss Mary said.

Thank you, Miss Mary, for your generosity on that day and for your work as a frontline fighter every day.

“Thank you very much. God bless you all,” Miss Mary said.

Nominate someone for Pay it 4Ward!

Pay It 4Ward is a program through which KFOR-TV viewers can help someone they know who could use extra cash immediately.

Each week someone will receive $400 cash because one of their friends or co-workers wants to “Pay It 4Ward.”

When nominating, make sure to include your name, daytime phone number, who you nominate and why. Please follow all the criteria when nominating. 

Email all that detailed information to us for it to be considered.

Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.


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